« PreviousContinue »
school, it need scarcely be said that it embraces broad gravelled terraces, long alleys of yew and hornbeam, vast orangeries, groves planted in the quincunx style, and water-works embellished with, and conducted through every variety of sculptured ornament. It takes the middle line between the other two geometric schools-admitting more sculpture and other works of art than the Italian, but not overpowered with the same number of "huge masses of littleness" as the Dutch. There is more of promenade, less of parterre; more gravel than turf; more of the deciduous than the evergreen tree. The practical water-wit of drenching the spectators was in high vogue in the ancient French gardens; and Evelyn, in his account of the Duke of Richelieu's villa, describes with some relish how on going, two extravagant musketeers shot at us with a stream of water from their musket barrels.' Contrivances for dousing the visitors-especially the ladies' which once filled so large a space in the catalogue of every show place, seem to militate a little against the national character for gallantry; but the very fact that every thing was done to surprise the spectator and stranger, evinces how different was their idea of a garden from the home and familiar pleasures which an Englishman looks to in his."
It is scarcely necessary for us to say, that this new splendor of the French in their gardens was more or less copied, at the time, all over Europe. "Ainsi font les Françaisvoilà ce que j'ai vu en France," was the law of fashion in the gardening taste from which there was no higher court of appeal. But, in copying, every nation seems to have mingled with the "grand style" some elementary notions of its own, expressive of national character or locality. The most marked of these imitators were the Dutch, whose
style of ornamental gardening seems sufficiently unique to be worthy of being considered a separate school.
And how shall we characterize the Dutch school, which even to this day, in the Low Countries, has scarcely given way to the continental admiration for the "jardin Anglais ;" this double distilled compound of laboured symmetry, regularity, and stiffness which seems to convey to the quiet owners so much pleasure, and the tasteful traveller and critic so much despair! A stagnant and muddy canal, with a bridge thrown over it, and often connected with a circular fishpond; a grass slope and a mound of green turf; on which is a pleasure or banqueting house with gilt ornaments; numberless clipped trees, and every variety of trellis work lively with green paint; in the foreground beds of gay bulbs and florist's flowers, interspersed with huge orange trees in tubs, and in the distance smooth green meadows--such are the unvarying features of the Hollander's garden or grounds.* The true Dutchman looks upon his garden as a quiet place. to smoke and be "content" in; if he lazily saunters through, it is rather to enjoy the gay pencillings of some new bed of tulips than to enjoy the elegance and harmony of its design, the variety of scenery, or the freshness and beauty of the foliage. At the same time, he is neither exclusive nor secret with the stores of enjoyment which he has within its bounds; and very many of the private villas near Rotterdam, and in other parts of Holland, have mottoes like these inscribed over the gateways-"Tranquil and Content," "My desire is satisfied" (genegentheiel is volden,)—“ Friendship and sociability," and numerous others of a similar import.
* In the neighborhood of Antwerp, not a long time since, was the villa of M. Smetz, where, among many things that were pretty, was the odd conceit of a lawn on which were a shepherd, his flock of sheep, and his dog cut in stone, and always looking "pastoral and country like."
The ornamental gardening of England in the early ages, and during the reigns of Elizabeth, James, and Charles, was in the same courtly and formal taste. Always fonder than any other people of great landed estates, their parks, even in the days of the Henrys, were grand wooded surfaces, full of wild sylvan beauty; but that part considered the ornamental grounds, near the house, was always laid out in right lined avenues, labyrinths, parterres, and knotted gardens. "Nonsuch," a royal residence, was the gardening wonder of the reign of Henry the VIII.; and the chroniclers have left enthusiastic notes of its various charms. Keutzner, in his account of these gardens, says, "in the grove of Diana is a very agreeable fountain, with Acteon turned into a stag, as he was sprinkled by the goddess and her nymphs, with inscriptions; besides another pyramid of marble, full of concealed pipes, which spirt on all who come within their reach."
Charles II. startled, like the rest of Europe, with the fame of Versailles, sent for Le Notre, who, it is said, planted St. James and Greenwich parks, and inspired the nobility with a taste for some of the more splendid formalities of the French school of design.
Vegetable sculpture, and all the accompaniments of Dutch taste were introduced with King William, and had their heyday of fashion; and we may get a good notion of the subjects most in vogue, by an extract from Pope's keen satire on the popular taste, written as late as 1713, when it was beginning to get into disrepute.
INVENTORY OF A VIRTUOSO GARDENER. Adam and Eve in yew; Adam, a little shattered by the fall of the tree of knowledge in the great storm; Eve and the serpent, very flourishing. Noah's ark in Holly; the ribs a little damaged for want of water.
The tower of Babel, not yet finished.
St. George, in box; his arm scarce long enough, but will be in a condition to stick the dragon by next April. Edward the Black Prince, in cypress.
A pair of giants stunted, to be sold cheap.
An old maid of honor, in wormwood.
A topping Ben Jonson, in laurel.
Divers eminent modern poets, in bays; somewhat blighted.
A quick set hog, shot up into a porcupine, by being forgot a week in rainy weather.
A lavender pig, with sage growing in his belly.
Whatever may have been the absurdities of the ancient style, it is not to be denied that in connection with highly decorated architecture, its effect, when in the best taste-as the Italian-is not only splendid and striking, but highly suitable and appropriate. Sir Walter Scott, in an essay on landscape embellisment, says, "if we approve of Palladian architecture, the vases and balustrades of Vitruvius, the enriched entablatures and superb stairs of the Italian school of gardening, we must not, on this account, be construed as vindicating the paltry imitations of the Dutch, who clipped yews into monsters of every species, and relieved them with painted wooden figures. The distinction betwixt the Italian and Dutch is obvious. A stone hewn into a gracefully ornamented vase or urn, has a value which it did not before possess; a yew hedge clipped into a fortification, is only defaced. The one is a production of art, the other a distortion of nature,"
THE MODERN STYLE. Down to the time of Addison, in the beginning of the eighteenth century, the formal style reigned triumphant. The gardener, the architect, and the sculptor-all lovers of regularity and symmetry, had retained complete mastery of its arrangements. And it is
worthy of more than a passing remark, that when the change in taste did take place, it emanated from the poet, the painter, and the tasteful scholar, rather than from the practical man. In the poetical imagination, indeed, the ideal type of a modern landscape garden seems always to have been more or less shadowed forth. The Vaucluse of Petrarch, Tasso's garden of Armida, the vale of Tempe of Ælian, were all exquisite conceptions of the modern style. And Milton, surrounded as he was by the splendid formalities of the gardens of his time, copied from no existing models, but feeling that EDEN must have been free and majestic in its outlines, he drew from his inner sense of the beautiful, and from nature as he saw her developed in the works of the Creator. There, the crisped brooks,
"With mazy error under pendant shades
Flowers worthy of Paradise, which not nice Art
But it required more than poetical types to change the long rooted fashion. The lever of satire needed to be applied, and the golden links that bind Nature and Art more clearly revealed, before the old system could be made to Lord Bacon, who looked deeper into the essence of all things than most men of his age, was one of the first to feel uneasy under the dominion of the formal taste; and, in his essay on gardens, full of a stately and noble plan, he ventured, in the reign of James I. a tilt at the popular taste.